Dallas Stars vs Montreal Canadiens
Friday, Dec. 23: 7:00 PM CT
How to Watch: Bally Sports Southwest Extra
The Dallas Stars play their final game before Christmas break on Friday, as they host the Montreal Canadiens at the American Airlines Center.
The Stars and Habs have already met this season, a 5-2 victory for Dallas at the Bell Centre in late October. The Stars went 2-for-3 on the power play in the game and Joe Pavelski registered a hat trick to lead the team.
“When you re-look at that game, you realize your team’s in a different place than it was then,” Stars Head Coach Pete DeBoer said. “We’re doing a lot of things better than we were. But so is Montreal.
The Stars may be a different team than they were in October, but they have not stopped winning.
After that game in Montreal, Dallas improved to 4-0-1 and had outscored their opponents 18-8 in those contests. Fast-forward to Dec. 23, the Stars hold the top spot in the Central Division, rank second in the West, and are in the top six in the NHL. They also have the fourth-highest goal total and fifth-best differential of all 32 teams.
Dallas can score goals, defends well, has flipped the script in one-goal games, and is finding ways to consistently stay in the conversation among contenders in the league.
“I think the group is honest,” DeBoer said. “We have honest conversations after games, of the things we did well and the things we didn’t do well. They are smart enough to get them fixed usually for the next game.”
That is good news for the Stars, who are coming off a sloppy 6-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday. Dallas looked out of sync in their first home game following a lengthy road trip, and the high-flying Oilers took advantage.
For DeBoer, the stress level is relatively low heading into Friday night. He feels that his team will be ready to go and that Wednesday was more of a one-off than a headline.
“I think we’ll be better tonight,” he said. “I think situationally, we’ve been here for a couple of days. We looked at it, we’re not that team, we usually don’t beat ourselves. We’ve been smarter than that. I think the guys will get it fixed.”
Starting goaltender: Jake Oettinger will start his third straight game for Dallas.
Oettinger is 1-1-0 and split the two games between an excellent performance in Columbus (.964 save percentage) and a poor one at home against Edmonton (.848 save percentage).
The 24-year-old old still ranks in the top 10 with an overall save percentage of .919 this season.
Stars Projected Lines
- Jason Robertson – Roope Hintz – Joe Pavelski
- Joel Kiviranta – Ty Dellandrea – Tyler Seguin
- Jamie Benn – Wyatt Johnston – Mason Marchment
- Riley Tufte – Radek Faksa – Luke Glendening
- Miro Heiskanen – Nils Lundkvist
- Ryan Suter – Colin Miller
- Esa Lindell – Jani Hakanpää
- Jake Oettinger
- Scott Wedgewood
Canadiens Scouting Report
The Canadiens are still in the middle of a full rebuild but have put on some impressive performances this season. Under second-year coach Martin St. Louis, the Habs are a high-flying risk-taking club, and they have the guys up front to have success playing that way.
“There were definitely some things that they exposed on us in that game (in October),” DeBoer said. “They are a good rush team. They go east-west a lot with their offense, rink-wide and cross-ice, things like that that we are going to have to be aware of.”
Nick Suzuki (15 goals, 31 points) and Cole Caufield (19 goals, 28 points) lead a very top-heavy Habs scoring rush. The next highest scorer is defenseman Kaiden Guhle, who has 13 points in 33 games.